Thursday, December 18, 2014

10 Things You Should Do This January

From: Retail Concepts

The holiday season has come and gone, and now you are now dealing with the *nightmare* of Christmas past -- the organizing of decorations, returns on returns and leftover inventory. But, before you turn a Santa shade of red, keep breathing and consider our 10 "must-dos" for January 2015.
1. Take a second to breathe. You survived another holiday season. Whew!
2. Take an inventory. So many retailers overlook this, but taking a January inventory shouldn't be negotiable. Take out your scanning guns and get to work. (It won't take long.) It is important to start the year with a clean inventory and have an idea of what you actually have on-hand.
3. Get started with planning. Every month and every year you don't look critically at your inventory, you are missing huge opportunities...
  • You're not identifying key growth prospects and challenges. You're missing out on the opportunity to do more volume (on less inventory!) You're missing the opportunity to bank more cash by making smarter decisions. You're missing the opportunity to take control of your store by having a plan. Make 2015 the year you finally start planning. We promise we'll hold your hand through the process. And we *don't* bite!
4. Have a team meeting. Say "thank you" to your rock star employees that went the extra mile, this holiday season. Get their input on what worked well, and what didn't work as well. Take notes and save them in a place where you can reference them for holiday season 2015.
5. Make New Years resolutions...for the store. Set realistic, measurable goals. Whether they be sales goals, marketing goals, whatever goals -- set them for yourself, your staff and your store. Discuss them at a team meeting and consider steps for implementation and tracking. Don't let these goals be like every other New Years resolution. Follow through.
6. Clean-up. There is no doubt that the holiday season added some wear and tear to the store. Take some time to assess *damages* and start the cleanup process. It's amazing what some new signage or a fresh coat of paint can do to lift the store out of the winter dumps.  
7. Use markdowns to your advantage. Stores view "markdown" as a dirty word. Three words...Get. Over. It. 
  • Use a January sale or markdown to clear out inventory that didn't sell over the holidays. Use a January sale to get people back into your store. January can be a great month, too. 
8. Enter future on-order. By finally entering all your on-order that you placed months earlier, you can start to re-evaluate if you really need those 6 black dresses to come in, all in the same month.
**NOTE! When you start inventory management/ planning with Retail Concepts (see Step 3) we are going to ask you to do this very step. It's super important to see how much you are bringing in, and in what classifications, to see if orders need to be moved around, trimmed, or canceled.
9. Run a cash-flow report. Do an 8-month cash flow projection to make sure you can pay for all that on-order. Sure, your assortment on line sheets and in the computer may look beautiful, but you need to be able to pay for it...right?
10. Gear up for a great Q1. Scour Pinterest, trade publications, blogs and other media to find something great new lines for Q1, to help give you something other than holiday markdowns to talk about.
Use Retail Concepts and this top 10 list as your checklist to kickoff 2015 in style. We want to make 2015 a successful year for you in-store.
Here's to great New Year!


Tuesday, December 16, 2014

How to Boost Your Retail Sales Into the New Year

If you’re putting all your focus on the holiday sales season, you’re neglecting a huge opportunity — the chance to boost your retail sales after the new year, which is typically a slower time of the year for many.

Plenty of people will be heading into stores in January to exchange unwanted items, cash in gift cards or spend gifted money. With the right approach and some advance planning, you can continue to capture their attention, and their dollars, well into the new year.

6 Ways to Boost Your Retail Sales Into the New Year

Lure Them Back With Limited-Time Offers Good Only in January

Personally, I’m a sucker for “Kohl’s cash.” The national chain periodically rewards shoppers with $10 to spend for every $50 in purchases. The catch: Kohl’s cash can only be spent during a certain window of time.

Since it feels like free money, I almost always end up checking out the store before my Kohl’s cash expires and spending a lot more than I received in “free money.” You can reward customers with store “cash,” gift cards or percentage/dollar-off deals. Whatever you choose, the key is to focus on getting your customers back into your store in January, a frequently slow sales month.

Sell Gift Cards

Gift cards were the number one most popular gift last year. So if your store sells them, you have built-in sales in January (and even later). Even if customers never redeem their cards, you’ve gotten paid for the face value. But if you can get them to come into your store in January, all the better, since they’ll usually spend more than the amount of the card.

Follow Up With Holiday Shoppers

Make sure you capture email addresses from people who shop at your store over the next four weeks. If you do that, you can then reach out again in January with an email marketing message. You can do a soft sell with a digital “Happy New Year” eCard and a gentle reminder to come in and take advantage of year-end clearance items, or sweeten the pot with a discount offer.

Use Loss Leaders

January is the perfect time to get rid of slow-moving items that didn’t sell well. Discount them to rock-bottom prices to get people into your store. And then entice those customers with well-merchandised displays for full-priced items.

Try a Fun Promo

Consumers are likely to feel a letdown as they head back to work and open their credit card statements that reflect high balances from all of their recent spending.

Put them back in a good mood with fun contests, giveaways or challenges. Give away a free gift with purchases. Hold a drawing in the store for a prize such as a $100 gift card or a desirable product. Or have customers bring in the biggest “white elephant” gift they got this year to receive a $10 gift card in exchange.

Look to the Future

The new year is a time when people are ready for change. Try marketing that emphasizes how your business can help them usher in “the new.” Whether it’s by purchasing snazzy new workout wear from your boutique to motivate a fitness regimen, overhauling the home entertainment center with surround sound speakers from your electronics store, or redecorating the living room for spring, there are plenty of ways to get customers energized about new projects — and into your store to get those projects going.

What ideas will you use to boost your retail sales in January?
Retail Sale Photo via Shutterstock

View the original article here:

Thursday, December 11, 2014

Building Loyalty: How Digital Receipts Fit In

Loyalty programs are virtually everywhere these days. And their impact is pretty significant. Just take a look at these stats from

  • The average U.S. household belongs to 22 loyalty programs (not all active though.)loyalty-programs-customer-experience
  • 57% of loyalty members modify where and when they buy items to maximize the points they receive for purchases.
  • Returning customers spend on average 67% more than first-time customers.
  • Up to 15% of a business’s most loyal customers account for 55-70% of its total sales.

Whether or not you currently have a loyalty program, flexReceipts can go a long way to help you increase customer satisfaction and strengthen loyalty.

Give Your Club More Benefits.
Show your loyalty club members even more love. flexReceipts ties in seamlessly to your existing loyalty program and automatically generates an e-receipt when customers scan their card at checkout. They also get an online receipt portal that organizes all their receipts and helps with tracking purchases and returns.

Here’s how flexReceipts earns your loyalty, as well:
  • More insights flexReceipts can provide insights for customers who opt out of your loyalty program, but opt into digital receipts. Generally, a larger percentage of customers will opt into your e-receipts program since it generally only requires an email address, not a long registration form.
  • More analytics flexReceipts provide cross-industry statistics for a wide range of industries, merchants and POS companies. This gives you a broader picture of what consumers may be doing once they leave your store. (All data is ammonized and we never share sensitive or confidential information.)
  • Promote your loyalty program E-receipts are a great way to promote your loyalty program. These transactional emails have higher open rates so they’re more likely to get attention and can help build loyalty club membership.
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Wednesday, December 10, 2014

The Most Wanted Holiday Gifts According to Social Media


by   |                       

What do people want most for the holidays this year? Good ol' cash, according to a recent report from Prime Visibility.
The report was based on data from millions of conversations about holiday gifts occurring on Facebook, Twitter, and forum communities.
The top three most wanted gifts of 2014—cash, gift cards, and iPhones—are the exact same as those of 2013, the analysis found.
However, the number four spot is significantly different, changing from Justin Bieber tickets last year to drones this year.
Rounding out the list of the top 10 most wanted gifts are shoes, clothing, nothing, the Xbox 360, puppies, and wine.

Guardians of the Galaxy is the most wanted movie this holiday season, followed by Frozen and The Fault in Our Stars.
American Horror Story is the most desired TV show, followed by The Big Bang Theory and The Walking Dead.
In electronics, iPhones rule—taking both the first and second spots—followed by drones and laptops.
About the research: The report was based on data from millions of conversations about holiday gifts that occured on Facebook, Twitter, and forum communities.

Read more:

Monday, December 8, 2014

Holiday Results To-Date Strengthen The Omnichannel Message

Holiday Results To-Date Strengthen The Omnichannel Message

Sales results from the 2014 Thanksgiving weekend further support retailers’ need to focus on a consistent brand message across all channels year-round, rather than comparing in-store sales on Black Friday to online sales on Cyber Monday.
“This year is likely to be the first time in nearly a decade that Black Friday won't be the biggest shopping day of the holiday season in terms of traffic and sales,” reported Robert Passikoff, Founder and President of Brand Keys, Inc., in the firm’s 20th Annual National Holiday Shopping Survey.
“This is due in part to the fact that retailers offer deals year-round and consumers have taken that to heart, and more stores are open on Thanksgiving Day,” Passikoff explained. “With the expansion of Black Friday into an entire season (aka November) more people are shopping on — or prior to — Thanksgiving.”

Looking at results from Thanksgiving weekend, many retailers may be discouraged. Total spending fell approximately 11% year-over-year to $50.9 billion, according to the National Retail Federation (NRF).
But e-Commerce sales increased 32% to $766 million on Thanksgiving Day and 26% to $1.2 billion on Black Friday, comScore reported. 
While online purchases are increasing more rapidly than brick-and-mortar sales, the store continues to be a vital component of the overall brand experience for shoppers. In fact, there were 233.3 total shopping trips over the Thanksgiving holiday weekend, according to the NRF.
One trend that crosses both online and in-store is gift card purchases. Gift card sales — both plastic and digital — are expected to top all previous records during the 2014 holiday season. According to NRF’s Gift Card Spending Survey, the average person buying gift cards will spend $173, up from $163 in 2013. Total spending is expected to reach close to $32 billion, which is an 83% increase since NRF began tracking consumers’ intentions to buy gift cards as holiday gifts in 2003.
Gift recipients are on board with the trend. In an October NRF survey, 62% of consumers said they would like to receive a gift card, making gift cards the most requested gift item for the past eight years.

Holiday Results Q&A With Scot Wingo, CEO, ChannelAdvisor

channeladvisor-hs video anchor

Amazon, Large Format Retailers Win Out In Holiday Predictions

If you’re placing bets on which retailers will rack up the most sales during the 2014 holiday season, bet on the obvious. Amazon shoppers are planning to spend 9.9% more this year compared to last year, according to Prosper Insights & Analytics, in its report, titled: Holiday 2014: Retailers To Watch.
Other retailers expected to fare well this year include:
  • Nordstrom, up 7.5%;
  • Walmart, up 5.3%;
  • Costco, up 5.2%;
  • Kohl’s, up 3.0%;
  • Best Buy, up 1.3%.

Pricing And Promotions Heat Up Competition As The Thermometer Drops

To remain competitive in the current, consumer-driven marketplace, retailers can’t wait around to launch their best prices and deals during the holidays.
As explained by Passikoff of Brand Keys: “As we predicted, with the intense competition for consumer dollars, department stores and specialty shops had to become more aggressive on deals, promotions, and operating hours this holiday season, and those realities are showing up in the real marketplace and on retailers’ bottom lines.”
Hopefully retailers will learn from their price and promotion inconsistencies last year, industry experts noted. “There was no consistent strategy or head-on competition among the retailers,” reported Amos Peleg Co-Founder and CEO of Upstream Commerce. “The average discount rate attained at both Amazon and Zappos (at different times in the scale), was 2.8%, but was only 0.5% for Macy's.”
Also during the 2013 season, Upstream Commerce examined pricing of the 20 largest athletic shoe brands at Amazon, Zappos and Macy's, finding that “each lowered its prices to start the holiday shopping season; and while Amazon discounted the most on Black Friday, it then raised prices the most for Cyber Monday.”
Peleg offered three key takeaways when it comes to holiday pricing strategies:
  1. “Each retailer appears to dance to its own drummer with no consistently obvious strategy in relation to each other.”
  2. “Although different products are considered, Amazon exhibits the same type of behavior each year, where it raises prices on Cyber Monday.”
  3. “While there may be a smaller set of ‘show’ products that are actually being discounted, it's probably a myth that retailers provide huge discounts across the board during the holiday season.”
To help retailers determine where they stand in an endless sea of discounts and promotions, they can look to a WalletHub survey of 5,525 deals from the 2014 Black Friday ad scans of 21 of the largest U.S. retailers:
  • JCPenney has the highest overall discount rate at 65%. Costco has the lowest at 21%.
  • Jewelry is the most discounted category at 58%. Electronics & Computers are the least discounted at 30%.
  • The average discount for Black Friday is 39%. 
  • The Toys category has the most discounted items, representing 26% of all offers. The Consumer Packaged Goods category has the smallest, with only 1.3% of all offers.
Following is a breakdown of additional spending trends and takeaways from Thanksgiving — also called Gray Thursday — to Cyber Monday.

Thanksgiving Day Shopping Becomes A Holiday Hit, Boosts Store Sales 24%

Thanksgiving Day has evolved into a shopping holiday over the past three years. Not only did top retailers such as Walmart and Target open their doors earlier on Thanksgiving Day, but they also started their holiday doorbusters earlier than ever.

Although industry experts argued whether opening on Thanksgiving would help or hurt retailers, results are pointing to the former. Total in-store sales for the day were up 23.7%, with holiday shoppers spending a total of $3.19 billion, according to ShopperTrak.

The early openings were a success, bringing in12% more store traffic on Thanksgiving than 2013, according to data from Shopkick. In fact, 30% of all Black Friday store visits happened before midnight Pacific Time on Thanksgiving Day, representing an increase above 18% in 2013, 16% in 2012 and 13% in 2011. The data illustrated that in-store shopper traffic peaked on Thanksgiving Day at 6 p.m. PT, which is two hours earlier than the 8 p.m. peak time in 2013.

Despite the boost in store traffic and sales, e-Commerce and mobile shopping dominated Thanksgiving Day, with the IBM Digital Analytics Benchmark reporting that combined online sales increased 14.3% over 2013.

Online sales from desktop and laptop computers increased 32%, reaching $1.01 billion throughout the day, according to data from comScore. Online average order values (AOVs) on Thanksgiving Day were $179.59 per order, which was the highest total over the entire holiday weekend, according to Monetate.

Mobile traffic and sales experienced the highest year-over-year increase, according to the IBM Digital Analytics Bench report. Mobile traffic outpaced traffic from computer devices for the first time in 2014, with smartphones and tablets accounting for 52.1% of all online traffic. Mobile sales, on the other hand, accounted for almost one third (32.3%)of all online sales, representing a 25.4% year-over-year increase.

Mobile web sites accounted for 93% of retail revenue throughout the day, with only 7% coming from retailers’ apps, according to data from Skava.

After consumers finished their turkey dinners, they also turned to social networks to search for their favorite brands and keep track of discounts and offers. The IBM Digital Analytics Benchmark concluded that Facebook referrals drove an average of $107.73 per order, while Pinterest referrals averaged $95.24 per order.

Black Friday Underperforms Due To Thanksgiving Openings

While Black Friday has evolved to become a flagship spending day, Thanksgiving Day appeared to shake up spending patterns and consumers’ overall enthusiasm for the shopping holiday. Overall, 86.9 million shoppers either shopped in-store or online on Black Friday, a 5.5% decrease from 2013, according to data from NRF.

Total Black Friday spending in physical stores dropped 6.8% year over year to $9.10 billion, ShopperTrak data noted, while in-store traffic fell 6.6%, according to the U.S. Retail Benchmarks Report from Euclid Analytics.

E-Commerce fared more positive for retailers, with Black Friday online sales increasing 20.6% from 2013, according to a blog from Custora. Research from comScore indicated online sales from desktop and laptop computers alone jumped to $1.5 billion.

Online retailers in the Health & Beauty and Home Goods categories experienced the highest sales growth during Black Friday. Sales for Health & Beauty merchants increased 56.9% over 2013, while Home Goods stores experienced a boost of 43.2%.

Similar to Thanksgiving Day, more consumers were browsing and buying on their mobile devices on Black Friday. Approximately half (49.6%) of all online traffic on Black Friday came from mobile devices, a 25% year-over-year increase from 2013. Mobile also accounted for 27.9% of total online sales, up 28.2% from the 2013 results, according to the IBM Benchmark.

While social media as a whole drove only 1.7% of sales, email marketing had a major impact in driving online sales on Black Friday.More than one quarter (27.3%) of sales were attributed to retail emails, according to IBM. These email messages helped target customers and were sent less frequently than in the past. Retailers sent an average of 5.3 emails to shoppers this year, 11% less than Black Friday 2013.

Cyber Saturday Picks Up Steam

Although many retailers choose to take their time to reload in the days between Black Friday and Cyber Monday, in 2014 some decided to jump in to a cyber-themed weeks on Nov. 29 — leading to numbers well over last year's for Cyber Saturday. Amazon, for example, rolled out is Cyber Monday deals early.

This proved to be a hit with customers, and sales were up 45.9% over 2013, according to ChannelAdvisor. eBay, meanwhile, was up 14.9% over last year, and Google shopping jumped 19.7%. ChannelAdvisor reports that total e-Commerce growth year over year was 27%.

Data released by Monetate, a retail personalization technology provider, paints a similar picture. According to the company, shoppers initiated 30,518,366 sessions on e-Commerce sites on Nov. 29, which represents a 10.33% spike over Cyber Saturday 2013.

Mobile played a key role in the traffic increase, with both smartphone traffic — up 51.9% — and revenue — up 49.1% — well over last year's numbers. In total, tablets and smartphones accounted for 43.98% of all online traffic and 28.6% of sales. Other findings released by Monetate include:
  • The average order value of all purchases was $150.77;
  • Revenue per e-commerce session increased 14.8% year over year; and
  • Conversion rates increased 10.3% year over year.
"The Black Friday hangover impacted retailers in a very positive way as there were significant spikes in traffic, revenue and conversions on the Saturday after Thanksgiving," said Lucinda Duncalfe, CEO, Monetate. "Mobile continues to drive this trend, as it appears that shoppers browsing on Black Friday decided to make purchases via smartphones and tablets on Saturday as many deals and specials continued online."

Despite the gains, data analyzed by the Salesforce Marketing Cloud indicated that shoppers might have been ready to take a break. Social media conversations concerning holiday shopping dipped to 606,325 on Cyber Saturday. Apple led the way in social chatter on Cyber Saturday with 10,000 posts, representing a 456% year-over-year increase. Walmart while still coming in second with 8,700 post, was 21% down over last year’s social conversations. The number one topic of those discussions was Cyber Monday, which suggested positive trends for e-Commerce sites leading into Dec. 1.

Has Cyber Monday Lost Its Luster?

Cyber Monday has acquired a history of having the best online sales and deals. But this year, as retailers started their discounting tactics earlier and earlier, was that still the case? Moreover, were consumers just as eager to shop on Cyber Monday, or was their time and attention elsewhere?

Based on the projected individual holiday spend of $855, Brand Keys estimated that Cyber Monday would only account for 35% of total spending. The Cyber Monday Expectations Survey from

Prosper Insights & Analytics, also indicated that 126.9 million consumers planned to shop on Cyber Monday, a slight decrease from 131.6 million in 2013.

“For today’s shopper, every day is ‘Cyber Monday,’ and consumers want and expect great deals, especially online, throughout the entire holiday season – and they know retailers will deliver,” said Matthew Shay, President and CEO of NRF. “Retailers will still offer unique deals exclusive to Cyber Monday, but consumers also know shopping on Cyber Monday won’t be their last chance to find low prices and exclusive promotions.”

Supporting Shay’s point, research from ShopSavvy indicated that some of the deals released on Cyber Monday are just hype, and truly are not as substantial as they suggest. Data from the top 100 retailers concluded that the Electronics category had the steepest discounts, with NewEgg offering 71% off on Cyber Monday. Men’s Warehouse came in second, offering a 58% discount on Cyber Monday. Across all retailers across categories, Nordstrom offered the most discounts, slashing prices on 20,057 products.

However, results have shown something different entirely. Desktop online spending on Cyber Monday reached $2.04 billion, representing the heaviest online spending day in history, according to comScore. This is the first time in e-Commerce history that online sales surpassed $2 billion in a single day.

“With more than $2 billion in online buying on Cyber Monday to cap an exceptionally strong five-day period since Thanksgiving, the online holiday shopping season is clearly going very well at the moment and is currently running ahead of forecast,” said Gian Fulgoni, Chairman Emeritus at comScore. “Any notion that Cyber Monday is declining in importance is really unfounded, as it continues to post new historical highs and reflects the ongoing strength of online this holiday season.

Varying reports have also indicated weakness in the consumer economy due to flagging brick-and-mortar sales over the holiday weekend, but what we may really be seeing is an accelerating shift to online buying as mobile phones spur increased showrooming activity. The data we’re seeing suggest it may be more a change in shopping behavior than a lack of consumer demand.”

Results from the IBM Digital Analytics Benchmark also pointed to Cyber Monday as the most popular day for consumers to shop, with online sales growing by 8.5% year over year. Mobile traffic also grew, accounting for 41.2% of online traffic, up 30.1% over 2013. Mobile sales also surged, reaching 22% of total Cyber Monday online sales. Although online traffic and sales surged on Cyber Monday, average order value experienced a slight downturn, falling 3.5% year over year to $124.21.

Retailers Get On Consumers’ “Nice Lists” Across All Channels

Sales trends and results confirm that consumers are leveraging a variety of channels to browse and buy. As a result, a multitude of retailers ramped up their omnichannel marketing and engagement tactics to make holiday shopping more seamless and enjoyable. Here are a few standout examples:
  • Target is partnered with Google on the Art, Copy & Code project, which is designed to surprise and delight customers during the holiday season. Bullseye’s Playground is a mobile game experience that features the Target bull terrier mascot and other characters. In Target stores, guests can use Google’s Project Tango Development Tablet to interact with the Playground, which is presented as a 3D winter playground. The game also is available on personal mobile devices through For every game played with Bullseye’s Playground, Target will donate $1 to St. Jude’s Children’s Research Hospital.
  • Rue La La saw a surge in mobile sales and traffic through Thanksgiving weekend. With more than 13 million members, mobile accounts for 50% of total sales. The retailer saw mobile traffic peak at 8 p.m. ET. To celebrate the start of the holiday, Rue La La implemented a variety of campaigns, including the 12 Gift Steals program, which was a five-day series highlighting must-have gifts at exclusive pricing.
  • Macy’s held a variety of doorbusters and contests to pique consumer interest and drive conversions. Black Friday deals started at 6 p.m. on Thanksgiving Day, and consumers had the chance to win digital gift codes to be used for Black Friday purchases. Using the Macy’s mobile app, shoppers scanned in-store QR codes to instantly win gift codes worth $10, $20, $50 or $250. Sharing details on overall performance for the weekend, CEO Terry Lundgren said in a Fortune article: “So far, people are gravitating to doorbusters — that has got their attention. There’s so much information online, so they’re doing that research and going right for those doorbusters.” 
The retailers that landed on consumers’ “naughty lists” were the once who didn’t ensure quality e-Commerce performance during one of the busiest weeks of the year. Best Buy, BaubleBar and HP all experienced site outages, while Cabela’s and Foot Locker experienced some instability throughout the weekend.

What's In Store For The Rest Of December?

The five day crunch between Thanksgiving and Cyber Monday has now passed, but with a recent Credit Karma survey stating that three out of four shoppers avoid Black Friday and Cyber Monday, there’s still a long way to go before consumers wrap up 2014’s holiday shopping season.

The burning question now is how will the rest of the holiday season measure up? Cyber Monday got December up to a rousing start, and early projections for the rest of the month should encourage retailers.

In total, analysts at Mintel predict a 3% increase in spending throughout December. While this number does not beat last year’s 4% year-over-year increase, it represents a total spend worldwide of more than $57 billion, with nearly 13% coming from e-Commerce. 

Heavy shopping days remain in December, according to ShopperTrak – including the Super Saturday (Dec. 20), which the location-based analytics vendor predicts to be the heaviest in-store shopping day of the holiday season. Other dates to watch include Free Shipping Day 2014 (Dec. 18) and the second Saturday before Christmas (Dec. 13). In fact, ShopperTrak predict six of the top ten shopping days of the 2014 holiday season are still to come.

“While the holiday season is underway, it’s not too late for savvy retailers to still capture their piece of the holiday pie,” said Jeff Rohrs, Vice President, Marketing Insights, Salesforce Marketing Cloud. “Each moment in the customer journey matters just as much as the one that precedes or follows it. By focusing on the present moment at hand and making it unmistakably memorable, retailers can stand out amongst the holiday noise and take the customer one step closer to the next major milestone.”

Thursday, December 4, 2014

Top 5 Mistakes Brick-And-Mortar Retailers Make That Hurt Their Business

By: Donna Knight, Business Analyst
By now, most retailers know that an increasing number of shoppers are buying online. Does this mean that offline businesses should be afraid? Of course not. There are places where you can still see shopping malls with full parking lots and lines of people at the register waiting to check out. The prevalence of online shopping simply means that brick-and-mortar businesses cannot afford to continue running their business the same way they did 10+ years ago.
As a point of sale consultant, I have worked with retail businesses for 15 years, and I still see old and new businesses making the same mistakes other businesses did over a decade ago. Some of these mistakes include:
  1. No Internet Presence: I am always surprised when I come across a well-established business that does not have a web site. Even if you don't want to sell products online, you should at least have a web site that touts your address and phone number, what products and services you offer, and pictures of your store. Many people, like myself, research brick-and-mortar stores online before they actually travel there. And if you don’t want to sell online, you might want to consider whether there are people in other states who are looking for what you sell. They may not have products like yours anywhere near them. You could be leaving money on the table by not selling online. No matter what you decide, you should at least have a simple web site to let potential customers know you’re right there in their neighborhood. 
  2. Using Outdated Cash Registers: The fact is cashiers can make more sales in a shorter period of time with a computerized point of sale system than they can with a traditional cash register. In addition, the reporting functionality of cash registers, if they have any, are no match for those of even the most basic point of sale system. 
  3. Little Or No Security Measures In Place: I’m sure your employees appreciate the fact that you put complete trust in them, but no one knows who is dishonest until merchandise starts disappearing without sales receipts to justify their absence. There are multiple security measures you could be using, including:

    1. Installing security camera systems that not only show you what a salesperson was doing behind the counter, but also what receipt the salesperson was working on at a specific moment in time.
    2. Assigning an individual username and password to each employee so you can track their sales or other activity when using a computer.
    3. Exercising strict control over what employees can do in your business software.
  4. Not Collecting Customer Information: One of the things that successful companies do is follow up with their customers. I recently bought a new car. I got a survey from the sales person who sold the car to me and from the car manufacturer. This company clearly cares about the quality of their service since they follow up after your purchase in multiple ways. The best source of future sales is not new customers, but existing customers. You might consider offering a coupon in exchange for your customer’s contact information. If you don't collect any customer information, you have no way to encourage them to come check out your newest merchandise or your latest sale. If the customer didn’t find everything they wanted and doesn’t plan to return, you’ll never know why if you don’t follow up. Building customer relationships should be an important part of your business. It will help increase your bottom line.
  5. Waiting Years In Between Physical Inventory Counts: How can you be sure you’re not overstocking poorly performing merchandise or underselling due to shortage if you don’t have an accurate count of your merchandise? You should perform an inventory count at least once a year. The largest companies do cycle counts of certain departments more frequently. For example, you might want to keep better track of your best-selling departments so that you can order more merchandise before you run out.
The good news is that all of these mistakes can be corrected. Even if you start by just correcting a few areas, you may see a measurable increase in your sales or decrease in shrinkage. Once you start making small improvements, there’s no limit to how many new insights you can gain into what factors are hurting your business.

Donna Knight has worked for One Step Retail Solutions for 15 years and has been doing training and consulting for 13 years. She is certified in Retail Pro, CounterPoint, QuickBooks Point of Sale, LightSpeed Point of Sale and Retail Teamwork. She has been troubleshooting computer problems for over 20 years, starting out by building her first computer in the 1990s. Donna manages One Step Retail Solutions Knowledgebase. Since she began managing it, the Knowledge Base has gone from 250 articles to 3,071 articles.

Tuesday, December 2, 2014

Best White Elephant Gifts of 2014

$0-$10 Ideas
Any of these winter soaps from Soaptopia would be perfect a holiday party, especially if you want someone smelling especially delicious! You can choose from a lump of coal, candy cane, or Ginger soap man for the lucky winner of this gift!
Price: $6.95
Hot Cocoa Doco
 The Rubber Band Shooter Blaster Supreme from Kitson, will bring out the ten year old in any coworker. It comes fully prepared with the shooter, rubber bands, AND a keychain. So, no matter where you go, it can travel with you!
Price: $7.95
Rubber Band Shooter Blaster Supreme

I like Mixed Greens lets you create a mini spa experience for whatever lucky winner selects your gift! Combine 2 of the 3 options below and remain within the price rules of $10 for a white elephant gift.
Price: $9- $10 (in total)

Luscious Lip Butter Tin
Luscious Lip Butter Tube
Luxury Body Cream

$10- $15 Ideas
We are going to let Mimi and Hy describe this gift: “Voluspa Champagne Rose Travel Tin Candle is the scent of Brut Rose Champagne chilled and poured over cassis berries and edible white rose petals.” Just AMAZING.  Can we say Namaste times 100? Who wouldn’t want this candle that sounds like the ultimate description of utter relaxation and peace!
Price: $11
Voluspa Champagne Rose Travel Tin Candle
Rudolph the Red Nose Reindeer is a holiday classic and City Lights Collectibles is selling this ornament of Bumble and Rudolph that will make any fan of the Christmas season smile.
Price: $12.99
Bumble holding Rudolph Ornament

This piece of jewelry from Erica Wilson in New York is great if you work in a female or male heavy office. These Mala Tibetan Prayer Beads come in beautifully neutral colors and will definitely be a hit!
Price: $15
Mala Tibetan Prayer Beads

$15- $20 Ideas

The great thing about the holiday season is easily the food. Hickory Farms had created this large box of delicious Snowflake Pretzels that anyone will love to devour the minute they get it.
Hickory Farms Snowflake Pretzel
This cheeky notebook from *share with… is a great find for everyone in the digital age. Everyone in the office will get this joke!
Price: $18
NSFI Notebook
One of the first things everyone does in the morning is make a pot of their favorite coffee or tea. The person who gets this gift will have an even better day when they get to drink it from a Ninja Mug from Kitson!
Price: $19.95
Ninja Mug



Wednesday, November 26, 2014

Why Shopping Independent Stores This Holiday Season Should Be On Your To-Do-List


written by: Nicole Leinbach-Reyhle, Forbes Contributor
Did you know that on average, 48 percent of each purchase at local independent businesses was recirculated locally, compared to less than 14 percent of purchases at chain stores? This data, shared by the American Independent Business Alliancealong with countless other reasons are why it’s so important to support your local LOCM +1.38% businesses this holiday season and always.
"Shopping should be an enjoyable experience with interactions that leave us feeling good versus feeling like we have to do a chore. I find that’s far more likely to happen when I’m patronizing local independent businesses, plus I also find independent merchants usually beat the chains or the online mega retailers when you add up the key factors. These include product quality and durability, getting expert advice without having to waste time doing my own research and ease of return if an exchange is needed, as well as price. I think the discount chains have brainwashed America into valuing cheapness above all, but the best value isn’t always – or even usually – the cheapest product or vendor,” shares Co-Director of the American Independent Business Alliance Jeff Milchen.
Expanding on this is Ellen Divita, Director of Community Development in DeKalb, Illinois, which is home to Northern Illinois University.
"Keeping purchases close to home helps communities in countless ways, and consumers need to recognize this as they make their purchase decisions. Local shopping – whether at small or larger stores – impact community economics, and too often purchases are being made online nowadays. Browsing the shelves of your local store is an experience which cannot be replaced by shopping on-line, even if cheaper and quicker,” Divita states.
Additionally, Divita shares that DeKalb recently lost a major retailer and as a result, they’d like to attract independent merchants to make up for this loss while also bringing value to their community.
"We intend to work with our businesses to focus on customer service and build the customer experience. We are hopeful to attract an independent book seller as a key downtown revitalization strategy yet know this will be a challenge,” Divita further states.
Advantages to Shopping Local 
With internet shopping at our fingertips and big box stores always competing to one-up the other when it comes to offering consumers deals, independent merchants and other small businesses too often get lost in the dust. This trend, however, doesn’t have to continue and thanks to movements that include Small Business Saturday – which takes place the Saturday following Thanksgiving – and the increasingly popular Shop Small message that is shared year round, consumers are becoming more in-tune with the value of shopping local.
"More and more people are recognizing how important it is for their local economy and quality of life to patronize local businesses that support their community. That includes not only job creation and taxes, but support for local charities, events and more,” Milchen of the American Independent Business Alliance states. 
To expand on this, consider why shopping local impacts your immediate community beyond economics. For starters, independent businesses help bring character and charm to communities – as well as help communities stand out and become more exciting, more enjoyable and more memorable than others. This ultimately leads to strong economic growth and long-term vitality, as well as helps bring new residents and jobs into the community.

Consider your own firsthand experience, as well. It’s likely fair to say that you’ve experienced towns worth visiting and towns only worth driving through simply based on the unique small shops that exist within them. Collectively, these small businesses help shape and create the community in which they reside – as well as bring together residents and out of town visitors alike.

If charm isn’t reason enough to get you shopping local, consider the value that small, local businesses bring to your local employment options. Independent businesses help increase employment rates, as well become the customers to local accountants, lawyers, printers, marketing agencies and more. The domino effect is simply too good to ignore – yet unfortunately, too many consumers do.

Online or at big box stores, remember that every time you spend even a dollar, you are impacting your local economy, vitality and overall livelihood. The schools, public services, parks and recreation and so much more are all impacted by local businesses, as well, and again, impacted by your choice to support your community at large… or not. So this holiday season – and even beyond – consider where you want to spend your dollars and how it will impact the big picture of your hometown.

To view the original article please visit:

Monday, November 24, 2014

Need Some Holiday Inspiration? Here Are Some Campaign Ideas From Top Retailers

By Alicia Fiorletta, Senior Editor, Retail TouchPoints

It’s always interesting to see the different approaches retailers take to their holiday marketing and promotions. Sure, there may be the standard Black Friday and Cyber Monday deals, but retailers are thinking outside of traditional promotional calendars and tactics in order to stand out.

Over the past few weeks, I’ve made a point to track all the different announcements from retailers outlining their holiday sales and campaigns. As I hoped, they cover a broad scope, touching on everything from sweepstakes and giveaways, to doorbusters, events and experiential marketing campaigns.

Since we’re somewhat early on in the holiday game, there’s still time for retailers to take a look at their peers and see how they can revise and refine their marketing strategies. While you won’t be able to complete a chain-wide beacon deployment by Black Friday, here are some ideas to get your creative juices flowing and even thinking about next year!

Encourage shoppers to discover new things: Last year, we covered Barnes & Noble’s inaugural Discovery Weekend, which was developed to “bring the spirit of fun and discovery to the holiday shopping experience and help customers find the perfect gifts for the people they care most about,” said Mary Amicucci, VP of Adult Trade and Children’s Books at Barnes & Noble, in an interview with Retail TouchPoints. Due to its success, the retailer held the event again this year! Throughout the weekend, Barnes & Noble will provide family-friendly events, interactive activities, complimentary story times, and book signings and appearances from authors and celebrity personalities. Additionally, the retailer will hold a series of contests, including the #BNSweaterContest, which encourages consumers to wear their most outrageous holiday attire and post pictures to social media. Winners will receive a series of must-have gifts for the holidays and Barnes & Noble gift cards.

Although these are two very different approaches, they both encourage consumers to further engage with the Barnes & Noble brand. While Discovery Weekend drives in-store traffic and creates highly immersive and fun shopping experiences, the #BNSweaterContest encourages shoppers to interact on social. Taking a multichannel approach like this is key, especially as more consumers use their mobile devices in stores. 

Establish new partnerships: Connecting and building relationships with similar or like-minded brands can be valuable for expanding your consumer base and generating buzz. This year, Target has established a partnership with TOMS to release a collection of unique apparel, footwear and even home goods for the holidays. TOMS is a really hot brand now, and has been recognized for its charitable business model. Because of this partnership, Target has a very positive association with the brand, which improves consumers’ overall perception of the retailer.

Macy’s is thinking bigger with its holiday partnerships. The retailer has introduced the Holiday Arcade, which is a series of in-store gifting shops offering a variety of different products for different types of consumers. The Holiday Arcade gifting shops have been rolled out in six locations across several cities, including New York City and Chicago. Macy’s generated partnerships with Build-A-Bear Workshop, Paddington Bear and Curious George, among other brands, to roll out the Arcade. Because this store concept is limited time, it creates a sense of excitement for shoppers, which encourages them to visit participating stores before the products are gone!

Embrace charity and good will: After all, contributing to the overall good of mankind is what the holidays are about after all! Retailers can build customer loyalty and improve sentiment by partnering with charities or holding special events and campaigns for local or even national organizations. For example, Macy’s is inviting customers to participate in its annual Believe campaign, which has raised more than $8.7 million to Make-A-Wish.

From November 7 to December 24, customers can visit their local Macy’s store to drop stamped letters addressed to “Santa at the North Pole,” into special Santa Mail letterboxes. Now, consumers can even visit to create and send their letters to Santa. For each letter collected in-store and online, Macy’s will donate $1, up to $1 million, to Make-A-Wish, helping to grant the wishes of children with life-threatening medical conditions.
  Have some fun: Yes, it’s really that easy! Look at how Kohl’s and Disney Interactive are getting families to participate in some holiday fun. Up to 4,000 adults and children submitted videos of themselves singing the theme from Frozen, “Let it Go.” The videos were submitted on the Disney web site and through the Disney Applause app for iOS and Android devices. Americans can select their favorite singers, who will then be included as a part of Kohl’s holiday commercial, which will air during the American Music Awards on November 23.

In a way, the campaign approach is not directly associated with Kohl’s as a brand or retailer. But a variety of Frozen products are sold in the retailer’s stores, and Disney is most likely a great partner for the retailer. In fact, Kohl’s even is encouraging shoppers to share their favorite “Frozen finds” on social media using the hash tag #FrozenFunAtKohls. This was a great way for Kohl’s to be included in a nationwide campaign that generated a lot of buzz and participation. Although your retail business may not have the same bandwidth or reach as Kohl’s or Disney, this example confirms that your campaigns don’t always have to focus on getting customers to make a purchase.

As we venture further into the holiday season, I’m sure more fun campaigns and tactics will emerge.

Are there any interesting approaches you’ve seen so far? Share your thoughts in the comments section below!